Presenting the All-Wonk Team (3.0)For some time now your intrepid blogger has felt that the All-Wonk Team (2.0) is in serious need of updating. Today is that day!You may remember the last such update featured a systematic and highly-inclusive reader-involvement-process wherein Wonk painstakingly solicited your views, considered them at length, held numerous "Wonk Back!" reader-involvement panel discussions around the country, did town meetings where Wonk sat on a hay bale and listened patiently as ordinary citizens droned on about Dan Coleman vs. Ron Coleman, sat for countless interviews with local media in key hoops "swing" states, participated in Commission on All-Wonk-Teams-sponsored 90-minute televised debates with the likes of Yoni Cohen, Ken Pomeroy, and Kyle Whelliston--and then and only then rendered his decision. This time I decided to just do it myself (insert Edna Krabappel voice here): ha!No, just kidding. Wonk highly values your input and looks forward to your vigorous critiques, which, if they mention how great this blogger truly is, will be posted in full in Wonk back!Bear in mind that, as the games have rolled by, the All-Wonk Team has, perhaps inevitably, morphed from a preseason "here are some guys who may not be on the All-Big-Ten Team but they have good stats and we like their 'tude" collection of folks to more of a "this should be the All-Big-Ten-Team" kind of thing.And so without further ado Wonk presents the All-Wonk Team (3.0).Carl Landry, Purdue. A holdover from 2.0 whose spot was safe, even without 31 points on 11-of-12 shooting last night. Congratulations, big guy.Jeff Horner, Iowa. Another 2.0 holdover--for now. Horner's unconscious early-season shooting has come down to earth but his overall stats are still pretty dang tasty: 14 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.6 boards.Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin. A returnee from the original All-Wonk Team (1.0)! Wilkinson has now served two non-consecutive terms as a member of this elite unit, making him truly the Grover Cleveland of the All-Wonk Team. Wonk booted Wilkinson off the team after that debacle at Pepperdine where the senior big man had more turnovers than points. But Wilkinson has worked hard to earn his spot back and has gotten his stat line to the point where it's again Wonk-worthy: 13 points and seven boards. And while other bigs have better numbers than that, Wilkinson plays D.Luther Head, Illinois. This season Head is a freak of nature: an outside shooter who can blow by you. Nattering TV-heads talk about being in the presence of such a player in almost every game they do but seeing the real deal is surprisingly rare. Watch Head. Against Northwestern he was quite literally taking whatever the Wildcats gave him. If they came out, he went baseline and dunked. If they played off, he drained the three. And he dishes over four assists a game (which may look pokey next to assist-machines Dee Brown and Deron Williams but that number is bettered only by Head's two teammates, Jeff Horner, and Chris Hill). And he's the Illini's best defender. (Honorable All-Wonk mention, by the way, to the entire Michigan State team, which at its best looks like about 11 Luther Head clones.)Dee Brown, Illinois. As a much better writer than Wonk once said about a much much better writer than Wonk, there are times when words fail and all we can do is point. Your intrepid blogger points to Brown: his stats, his leadership, and, as much as anything, his sheer presence and his will to win. (Wow, Tom Izzo points at Brown, too! The Michigan State coach has shown film of Brown to his team.) Give Wonk five Dee Brown's and, never mind the mismatches in the paint, I'll win some games. In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... Despite allowing Carl Landry the aforementioned 31 points on 11-of-12 shooting, Michigan State beat Purdue 71-64 in East Lansing last night. The Boilermakers missed 13 free throws. During an otherwise lackluster first half in which both teams appeared to be suffering the lingering after-effects of devastating losses, Wonk for some reason found himself watching Drew Neitzel. For a second, your intrepid blogger thought he could see what all the hype was about back in November. About eight minutes into the game Neitzel wrested the ball away from Carl Landry (!) rocketed down the floor in a heartbeat and delivered a perfect textbook dish to Tim Bograkos. OK, so Bograkos missed. Neitzel had done his job. On an ensuing possession, the freshmen moved without the ball like a 20-point-a-game stud, ran a curl off a weak-side screen, came open for a three in the corner--and passed up the shot. The savvy Breslin Center crowd groaned and the ESPN feed even captured a disgusted male voice shouting, "Shoot the ball!" When Neitzel adds some range to his repertoire (and he did make a three later in the first half), look out. (Spartan links here, here, and here. Detroit Free Press columnist Jemele Hill boldly climbs out on a limb here and says this year's Purdue team isn't very good. Lansing State Journal columnist Todd Schulz says, coming off State's loss in Madison, he would have liked to have seen more of a reassuring spark from Spartan seniors Chris Hill, Alan Anderson, and Kelvin Torbert. Boiler links here, here, and here.)Old business: the Big Ten conference office said yesterday that officials made the wrong ruling at the end of the first overtime in Saturday's game between Indiana and Purdue. Carl Landry was fouled by A.J. Ratliff with less than a second remaining on the game clock and then released his game-tying shot after time had expired. Officials on the floor counted the basket and gave Landry one free throw. The correct ruling: no basket and two free throws. (More here.) Good thing Landry missed the free throw and the Hoosiers went on to win.Former Purdue forward Ije Nwankwo is transferring to Cleveland State and will be eligible to play this December.Indiana hosts Michigan tonight. (Hoosier link here. Wolverine links here and here.)Ohio State hosts Minnesota tonight. (Buckeye link here. Gopher links here and here.)Doing its level best to feed the insatiable beast that is Wonk's fellow Illini fans, the Chicago Sun-Times scrounges up some off-day copy by calling up NBA types and asking them what they think of various Illinois players. Not to be outdone the Chicago Tribune details how the Illini are preparing for tomorrow night's game against Iowa. (Meanwhile the Hawkeyes are preparing for the Illini, etc.) More Illini-gazing: Mark Tupper blogs that he still doesn't know if Brian Randle will come back this season or redshirt--and if Tupper doesn't know, Randle probably doesn't either....Preparations continue for the program's 100th anniversary celebration next weekend.Profile of Wisconsin guard Kammron Taylor here.Token Wonk admission of error: Penn State coach Ed DeChellis is not the leading vote-getter in the Des Moines Register's reader poll on the burning question of which Big Ten or Big 12 coach has the best hair. Gene Keady is in fact leading the pack (rightfully so!) but the bar-chart is ineptly rendered or Wonk perceived it ineptly. (Kudos to alert reader Shawn M.) Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!A Wonk bricolage!Wonk's post yesterday rambled all over the place: Mark Tupper's blog post on Illinois fans complaining of a lack of respect; Steve Alford repeating everything this blog says; the Des Moines Register's reader poll on which coach has the best hair...you get the idea.Alert reader and Illini fan Jason somehow manages to touch all these bases....Wonk:
Just read today's post (quality, as usual) and jumped the link to Tupper's blog entry. (I'm glad you include him; I think he's outstanding.) I have a theory.
I wonder if Illini fans, that orange-clad and snake-bitten group, are a bit defensive about our perceived national bobbling-head disrespect b/c we fear one thing more than any other: a March flameout.
If so, then we logically want to feel the love now. Any alleged slight, somewhere deep in our collective cognizance, therefore conjures images of seasons lost in the glare of March. We see before us arguably the best Illini team in generations, but we are afraid. If they were to lose in the round of 16 or even Elite Eight, what will it have meant? That question is too much to bear. That question might be too cumbersome for even Derrida to deconstruct.
So we become bitter with the bobbling-heads. We shred their columns, their every spoken word. We twist, contort, and contrive until they all hate us!
Ah, just a theory.
Keep up your solid contribution to the hoops blogging universe,
P.S. I refuse to vote in the Best Hair contest being run by the Register. I mean, give me all the candidates please! Where's Billy Gillispie?
P.S. part deux- I propose that you begin suggesting offensive and defensive sets for Iowa. Why? Just to see if the Boy Wonder runs them. While it wouldn't definitively prove that he's reading your blog, it would provide more interesting Iowa viewing. Just think (!) Wonk would become the Long Distance Hawkeye Puppet Master! Oh, the joy!!Thanks, Jason!